So this is Monday and the world has slipped a disc and this Advent has tried to press in quietly between the lines of dissonance and aggravation. Disappointment and frustration and fear and anger and shouting matches and unfriending and blocking and folding in on ourselves all seem to be the order of the day. We try to guard our children from the worst of it and so we bundle up and make our way to the mall and to Santa and we return home to the baking of cookies and the watching of endless holiday movies under quilts and snuggled next to tiny bodies on the couch. We Instagram the good stuff.
We mark time through the longest night in history and I try to pray the hours through the night as loved ones labor in their sleep and through the dark and into rain-drenched mornings. I want to be open to this, because, for what it’s worth, I believe this is Advent. This groaning and wondering and questioning if God has overlooked us or forgotten us or left us to our own devices? I am not so confident in our own devices, if I must be honest. I have seen the result of them, right here under my very own roof, and out there in the world.
I want to start a clothing drive, but instead of clothes, I want us to step down off our soapboxes and use our bare hands to rend the wooden planks apart and throw them on the fire in the fireplace. That’s where they will crackle and send forth warmth and beckon us to gather close to let the heat sink in. The soapbox makes so many of us recoil and we leave the broken bread and the wine on the table. Untouched. Because the table lost its welcome when the voices drowned out the still, small voice of God.
Transformation is the byproduct of Advent. We see the wrong in what we’ve called right and we set our hearts in a different direction, the one that makes a weary world rejoice. And we are weary, aren’t we? Or, maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the only whose inner resolve has dissolved and gone limp and surrendered to the truth that Jesus came to earth because we needed him to. We still do.
We need him to disrupt the status quo. In retrospect, it’s easy to look at the pictures in the history books and point our fingers at all the places humanity got it wrong. The brave ones wonder: “Would I have been on the right side of history, if I’d been around back then?” Our world is writing history right now, and we have a chance to try to get it right. To quiet our hearts and our defense of our “side” and to step down off those battered boxes we’ve been toting around. We can reach our hands out to the fire. Eat the bread. Drink the wine. Confess our sin and admit our need for a savior.
Transformation is the byproduct of Advent. Christ shows up on the scene and, if we’re paying attention, and if our hearts are quietly open, we won’t be the same after we’ve encountered him. He shows us the holes in our arguments and he points out the ways we’ve been propping ourselves up with temporal accoutrements.
This is Monday, and the world has slipped a disc and this Advent has pressed in quietly between the lines of dissonance and aggravation. Christ has come and he is with us. He is not confounded or surprised to find us so off kilter and so needy. He is not turned off by us. The invitation stands, but he is not here to rescue us out of this mess. Christ delivers us through, and the weary world rejoices.
Some questions for you: What is it about babies that bring us so much joy? What brings you hope, here at the end of 2014? What has sent you running from the table of communion? What might be the fire that draws someone in? Have we been standing on too many soapboxes?
Babies are sweet, tender and innocent. We feel a need to protect and comfort them. That I think is why Jesus came as a baby, so approachable, and so precious. It is a rare person who doesn’t draw near and close to a newborn.
Hope is a word that is positive, and full of anticipation.
Oh the third question is hard. Still working on that one.
Fire is warm and receiving. We desire to stand near with hands open to feel it.
I pray my soap boxes are never hurtful or full of anger. I choose to speak truth.
With discerning words and kindness.
I’m working through those questions with you, Sharon. I can’t wait to see you in May, and hug you and let you know just how special you are in this world!
I read a really painful exchange on Facebook over the weekend. Someone was *shouting*, blaming, grandstanding their opinions about these recent murders of police officers, and my heart seized right up and I felt like for a spell, I couldn’t breathe. I want to rip the soapboxes apart, and hurl them into the fire, and then, sit in the ashes and weep to Jesus.
I’m grateful for this article Deidra. It feels like grace in a world in so much need.
I need Him still. My Jesus–every hour.
The other day, I read someone’s social media profile. I can’t remember who it was, which is sad. But what he said about himself is that his goal is to be the nicest person on social media.
I’ve seen some nasty exchanges on FB over the past few months. I think we all could stand a social media timeout. So much defensiveness and accusation and blaming and yelling. It’s painful to watch, indeed. I think we’ve pulled back a scab and exposed our humanity and it’s worse than we thought it was when we were able to cover it up with filters and such. Reminds me of whitewashed tombs and cups that are clean on the outside but filthy on the inside.
We need a savior in all the worst ways. Thank God for Jesus and for the truth that we don’t scare him off.
Babies! This has been the year for us . . . our first grandgirl in March and a grandboy in October, one month to the day after we lost my mom. Amelia was there with us my mom’s last few days at home on hospice care. At first, I said no and didn’t want her and her mom and daddy to come. I felt protective. But that sweet baby was God’s grace incarnate to Mom and the rest of us. She brought laughter into the lobby of death. Elisha arrived on the first month anniversary under a full moon, just like the night before Mom departed. Babies are love, hope, innocence, joy, peace all right smack in the middle of a whole bunch of sleepless nights, poop, puke, and mess. They’re the embodiment of grace.
This line “The soapbox makes so many of us recoil and we leave the broken bread and the wine on the table.” Oh to exchange our soapbox for a table, some bread, and wine. That brings me hope!
What a year it’s been for you, Kim! I’ve been watching from the sidelines. Mourning and rejoicing, right along with you and yours. When you come to Nebraska in May, bring some bread, okay? I’ll bring the wine.
To burn the soap boxes and build a fire for all to gather around. Yes.
I look at my Grands half of each world and I wonder why there are two worlds. Are they the bridge that helps bring the two world into one, or are they the next generation of victims and freedom fighters because this generation did not win the racial war.
What is it about babies? Hope for the future and for the present. Hope we make a better world for them to live in. And hope that they are raised and not snatched up so they will be the nurtured people who know how to really love. The way Christ does, not seeing color, or culture but the Christ in each person
I’m all about bridges, but something about saddling the next generation with such a heavy load seems unfair. But at the same time, this has got to end. We’ve got to find a better way. Harry says, in order for us to make progress, everyone has got to give up something, and I believe he’s right. The thing is, I’m fairly certain that what we have to give up is that one thing we want to hold onto.
God modeled that for us, didn’t he? Sending his only son to us. For us. What a sacrifice. What a gift. Let’s build a fire, Diane. A holy fire. And lets sit around and warm our faces and listen for the voice of God in our midst. I’d love to do that with you, sister.
I accept the invitation! Lets the fire of His Spirit burn in our hearts as we sit as friends and listen to His voice.
The thought crosses my mind. When we reject someone because of the way they are made, in His image, we reject God in a way. I don’t thimkist Christians think about this.
Love you my friend.
This the angst for me, Deirdre, because I haven’t been standing on soap boxes or running from the table. I’ve been sitting, yes, quietly, waiting. And I know some don’t agree with that either, the quiet part. But I don’t believe I have to be heard and understood, first. And I don’t believe I have to understand the other person’s perspective, first. I believe that if we can break the bread and share the wine, first, understanding is much more likely to follow. Because it’s true what you said about our own devices. The only hope we have in any of this mess (and mess is much too benign a word) is JESUS. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Deirdre, and all JOY in 2015!
Merry Christmas, June! Thanks for sitting at the table, and for saving a place for the rest of us.
Sheila Seiler Lagrand
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, that our souls might once again feel their worth.
Deidra, you knocked it out of the park. I would love to sit before the fire with you.
Pull up a chair, Sheila. Break bread and pass the cup. It’s going to be a long night, my friend. But we’ve got a savior who will see us through.
Sheila Seiler Lagrand
Yes, we do have! Always honored to share a table with you.
Patricia W Hunter
So grateful for this, Deidra. I’ve “written” so many responses to conversations lately – in my head, anyway – but every time I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit reigning me in because I have no answers – the only answer is Jesus. And it’s so easy to be misunderstood in social media. So I’m prayerfully listening – to every side – and saying, LORD, I just want to be on your side. What a mess we are in these days – and for now, all I know to do is to pray and love and extend as much grace as I can take in. There is so much pain and is there any better time for Advent than when we desperately need the LORD? What brings me hope? God’s sovereignty. His Word – His promise to give us light and wisdom. Bind us together, LORD, bind us together – with cords that cannot be broken. Merry Christmas, Deidra. The weary world rejoices. xox
You have good words, Patricia. And you are wise. While I’m staying away from conversations on FB, I’m like you: having the conversations in my head. You know what I find? Those conversations I have in my head help me enter into face-to-face conversations right here around my dining room table and in my living room and in the sanctuary at church and in bookstores, with more grace. I think those head conversations serve a purpose and they help to calm us down so we can engage in meaningful ways with the people we meet as we go about our daily living. We may not ever speak or share the words we’ve written in our heads, but God is using them to change our hearts, just the same.
I’m not saying I’m using those head conversations to build up ammunition or to strengthen my own position or fortify my argument. Instead, those conversations (might they be prayers?) make space for Jesus to make me different and to identify what’s most important and what really needs to be said when the moment presents itself. More grace.
Caryn Jenkins Christensen
I have been astounded by the the angry exchange and hurling of bitter accusations ~ amongst those that I love ~ and I can’t help but wonder if THIS is the ultimate ploy of the enemy…to divide the Christ’s Church? I’ve been sickened as I watched “conversations” digress, each “side” believing they are speaking truth. I wonder if it all sounds like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals in heaven? Proverbs instructs us to have kindness AND truth written on the tablets of our hearts. It seems we’ve forgotten the kindness part…and the love part…
Thank you for writing this Deidra. I long to be a part of the communion table and your words invite me to examine my heart beforehand. Because I really, really need Jesus too. <3
When we were in the canyon together, one thing weighed heavy on me, and it was the knowledge that we’d be returning to the announcement from the Grand Jury in Ferguson. I had a good sense about how that would go and I was so concerned about how/whether/when to address it upon my return to “real life.” In the canyon, I “clearly heard” God tell me I am not to engage the conversation in public on social media. It’s been difficult not to comment, and I’ve pushed the envelope of his instruction to me more than I care to admit. But, I’m afraid, without that instruction prior to the news, I might have slipped and fallen prey and joined in with the loudness. That’s the truth about that.
There are so many emotions beneath the surface for people. Anger is a cover-up emotion. It’s the way we react when we are fearful or frustrated or grief-stricken or uncomfortable or feeling left out or wronged or embarrassed (and on and on). I think, sitting together in silence, in front of a fire or at a table, creates an atmosphere where it’s easier to put our finger on what’s really going on inside, you know? That’s where we can actually voice the words that pinpoint more closely what’s really causing us to lash out. That’s where we build enough trust with one another to step down off the soapbox and remember kindness once again.
At least, I hope so.
Caryn Jenkins Christensen
I completely agree with you Deidra. Every time I have seen angry dissonance, I’ve wondered how different things might turn out if we were face to face, truly *listening* in a safe environment.
I find myself now more than ever with these words on my lips and in my heart…Lord have Mercy on us all… Scrolling through FB … Listening to news… It’s just the one thing I can pray… Secondly …change my heart!!!!!!! I think back to deliving my kids…I believe the moment we give birth…heaven cracks open…and in those first moments…we touch and experience what His perfect love is like for us… All the pain this child had caused us…all the inconveniences are swallowed up by pure joy and love the moment the child is birthed… They did nothing to earn or deserve our love… Maybe just quite the opposite … But all love spills out like a raging river for this baby… Sadly, with us humans, it doesn’t take long for that love to get tarnished…tied to conditions… But His love…His love never has changed for a nano second…always a raging river of love toward people. May we live more and more in this coming year by His love…not standing up …but coming down…along side one another… And let His love win the day!!
One of those nights, when I was trying to pray the hours through the darkness into light, I felt the word “midwife” wash over me more than once. Again and again and again as I woke to pray, “midwife” was the word that met me.
I love this… That word could be mined deeply!!!
Playing catch up today – and grateful, so grateful, this tab was still open for me to read. Yes, yes, please. Burn the soapboxes and sit at the table. And bring the babies right in there, right in the middle of it all. Pass them around and snuggle them, and look at them in wonder and pray mercy and grace over them. I’ll sit with you at any table, anywhere. And we can weep and we can laugh and we can wonder and we can ponder. And maybe, we can begin to see the light.
Wow…thank you for this. I’m late to the table, but this is truly stunning (as you are!): “The soapbox makes so many of us recoil and we leave the broken bread and the wine on the table. Untouched. Because the table lost its welcome when the voices drowned out the still, small voice of God.” How many times have I let my disgust with others (or myself) rob me of the joys of His presence? I’ll sit with that question awhile. I love that you reminded us that He is not turned off by us. Hallelujah!